, NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 11 – The country’s quest for a new Constitution got a major boost on Sunday when the civil society and political parties threw their weight behind a ‘Yes’ vote during the upcoming referendum.
The Center for Multiparty Democracy – which has a membership of 33 political parties – and several civil society groups, among them Transparency International (TI-Kenya) said they would launch a countrywide campaign this week for the passage of the draft.
“Today’s Constitution is the nearest that Kenyans have come to getting an effective justice and democratic governance foundation after more than 20 years of struggle,” a joint statement read by TI executive director Job Ogonda said.
The statement signed by CDM, TI Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya, League of Kenya Women Voters, Nairobi Central Business District Association, and Haki Focus pointed out that there was need to address voter apathy and propaganda.
The groups pointed out that the run-up to the 2007 general elections saw massive voter registration of an additional four million new voters, which was premised on the thought that their vote was meaningful and would usher in positive change.
“The unfortunate, criminal and indeed sinful events that followed the botched presidential elections shook voters’ confidence in the ballot to the core. This had resulted in the apathy we now see manifested in the low registration turnout in all corners of the country,” the statement added.
The lobby however assured Kenyans that their participation in the referendum vote would be in their interest.
“The draft Constitution promises to usher in a new way of governance that promotes citizen participation in public affairs including government, promote accountability and in many ways provides the real opportunity to change the political, socio-economic leadership of Kenya.”
The political parties said they would embark on a countrywide campaign at the end of the week to encourage Kenyans to register as voters starting in Nairobi, before moving to other constituencies across the country.
“We shall shortly be embarking on countrywide and select-constituency campaigns to promote voter registration so that as many as possible voters turn out to vote for the draft constitution because in it a brighter Kenya beckons.”
The groups took issue with a section of politicians and church leaders who it said were out to mislead Kenyans.
“It is our considered and humble view that the opposition is premised on misinformation, misinterpretation or outright distortion of facts based on non-common interest or in some cases outright fundamentalism.”
They said opposition to a clause on land ownership was misplaced since majority of Kenyans did not own any land.
The civil society and political groups also tore into the stand taken by church leaders on Kadhis courts, saying failure to pass the draft constitution would not alter their existence.
“The religious founders of the struggle for a new Constitution Alexander Muge and Henry Okullu would turn in their graves for while they abhorred abortion, it was not their principal drive in the struggle for a new Constitution.”
They added: “The Irony lost to church leaders urging you to reject the draft Constitution is that should you reject the draft Constitution, abortion will in the back alleys of Kenya as it happens today and Kadhis courts will continue to be constitutionally entrenched as they are today.”
They said the draft Constitution provided a framework for fairness and responds to most of the injustices that have historically led Kenyans to hate each other and regularly kill one another.
“We must therefore safeguard it against all propaganda and misinformation if we are to overcome our shameful history, live in a just country and leave a legacy of peace and prosperity for future generations of Kenya.”